International Vintage: Princess Kouka of Sudan

Time for another "International Vintage" post!  This time, I'm highlighting another one of the countries I lived in that is very near and dear to my heart: Sudan!

Specifically, I want to introduce you to a Sudanese woman named Princess Kouka:

Flashback Summer:  International Vintage- Princess Kouka of Sudan

I have run across this picture in several places on the internet, but I don't know where it's originally from.  This picture's origin is a lot like all the other information I can find about Princess Kouka.... I can find almost nothing!  She seems to be a Sudanese Arab, probably from the northern part of Sudan, and apparently she is royalty.  All I really know is that she played a character named "Gara" in a movie with Paul Robeson.  It was released in 1937 and called "Jericho" (also alternatively titled "Dark Sands").  Here's a short visual snippet of her from the film:


Flashback Summer:  International Vintage- Princess Kouka of Sudan
from here
Flashback Summer:  International Vintage- Princess Kouka of Sudan
photo by Frank Shaw, 1937.
SO BEAUTIFUL.
Flashback Summer:  International Vintage- Princess Kouka of Sudan
from here
Flashback Summer:  International Vintage- Princess Kouka of Sudan
from here
Flashback Summer:  International Vintage- Princess Kouka of Sudan
from here
I can find literally nothing else besides what I have included in this post.  She is obviously a beautiful woman, and she must have been talented to have somehow made it from Sudan to the British movie industry in the 1930s.  However, I can't find record of her ever making another movie.  The newspaper clipping below (albeit slightly patronizing), does seem to imply that she didn't speak English and had not had much world experience outside Sudan at that point.  How did she get cast in a British movie?  Did her family allow her to go, or did she go against their wishes?  Who was her family?  What was her life like before and after this movie? 

Flashback Summer:  International Vintage- Princess Kouka of Sudan
I was also very cold after arriving in the U.S. from Sudan.  I totally get that!
My research has only left me with more questions about Princess Kouka than answers!  If anyone can find other information about her, I would love to know it!

17 comments

  1. She's gorgeous! Thanks for the great information and pictures.

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    1. Isn't she?! I'm glad you like the post!
      Also, you won the Valentine's Day giveaway! If you want to email me with a mailing address, I'll send it to you as soon as possible! Congrats!

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  2. This is SO interesting. I'm so curious about her life. I looked also, but alas no more information. Thanks for sharing this.

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    1. I know, right? I scoured the internet looking for things, but everything in this post is all I found!

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  3. this is amazing! another lost piece of Sudan History ..

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  4. http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2211&dat=19370109&id=-PwmAAAAIBAJ&sjid=GwMGAAAAIBAJ&pg=6783,4999813 . The full article briefly talks about her Dad a little and how she came into the movie industry (via TheAfroAmerican, Jan 9, 1937).

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    1. So that's where the news clipping is from! Thanks so much! It's quite interesting. I know about the city she's from, so that's pretty awesome! Thank you!

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  5. Maybe you've already done some more digging since this post, but in case you haven't . . .

    As far as I can tell, she went by the mononym "Kouka" and starred in an array of classic Egyptian movies: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0467956/?ref_=ttfc_fc_cl_t5

    Some of her movies are readily available with english subtitles, including 1955's "A Glass and a Cigarette," in which she plays the best friend of Samia Gamal's character (the legendary bellydancer). . . . The Kouka and Gamal pairing is really the highlight of the film. The male characters hardly get a word in edgewise, much less manage to own the screen with those two goddesses around!

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    1. Wow, I didn't know that! Thanks for the info!

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  6. I'm currently researching the life and career of a man named Donald Wilson, who happened to be the assistant director on "Jericho". Last week I listened to an oral history interview with him recorded in 1991 and held by the British Film Institute, in which he mentioned Princess Kouka. Sadly, he claims that she died not long after coming to England.

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    1. Very interesting! That could explain the lack of information about her after the movie debuted.

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    2. According to the IMDb profile Miranda posted in her comment, she was in over a dozen films after "Jericho" and passed away in 1979. It looks like all of her films after that were done in Egypt.

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  7. I'm wondering if the story of her being a Princess was fabricated. Not hard to believe since that wasn't uncommon back then. Her IMDb page says she was born and died in Cairo and her birth name is Tahia Ibrahin Belal. It's possible for her to both Egyptian and Sudanese, but more of the evidence points to Egypt than Sudan. The IMDb page or somewhere else should at least mention her father being a sheik or her being at least partially raised in El Fasher like the article says, but it doesn't. Most true royalty don't become completely forgotten like that. I really wish there was more information out there about her.

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    1. I think she probably was a princess, but that doesn't mean she was as "big" a princess as, say, one in the British royal family. There are a LOT of tribes in Sudan, many of which could have princesses. A lot of them didn't keep close records though, so I don't think it's unreasonable that we don't have a lot of info on her.

      And back in the day a lot of parts of modern-day Sudan were considered Egypt. They were ruled over by people in Cairo, and even back to ancient times the border of Egypt has sort of vacillated up and down the Nile.

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  8. Dear Emileigh, I really love your blog! I discover so many precious thing here! I had never heard about Princess Kouka. So beautiful and mysterious.

    Regards from Brazil,
    Rafaella.

    http://imperioretro.blogspot.com

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    1. I'm so glad you're enjoying it, Rafaella!

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    2. These two ladies don't seem to be the same person. The looks are very different. It just seems that they shared the same name.

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